― Pema Chödrön
Last week was a doozy. Rather than enjoy the delightful energy of three cherubic granddaughters for the entire five day visit to ChicagoLand, I spent two of those days sequestered in the basement, laying in a makeshift bed coughing and wheezing.
There was no doubt about it. I was sick.
I still am.
After a long travel day and two more solid days of rest here at hOMe, I was able to stay upright for several hours the next day with only occasional bouts of coughing. Yet, even after another week, I'm not yet back to "normal". At age 71, the realities of old age, illness and death that led young Siddhartha to turn his back on worldly power and pleasure to seek the Truth as a wandering ascetic are a part of my direct experience in many mind moments here again today.
Yet, although it's true that I'm an ailing old coot at the moment, I can say in all honesty: I'm just fine! In this case, two out of three ain't bad. It sure as hell beats hitting the Trifecta, right? I'm still Alive! As I sit here upright at the laptop, aware of my breathing, aware of my body, I feel deep gratitude and even a touch of joy as the hiss of tires on the rain slickened road outside the window emerges and dissolves into the vast stillness that embraces the magic of the present moment.
I blame that on Practice. I wouldn't be here without it.
All the Difference in the World
For most of my life, I've hated being sick. As well as the discomfort of the various symptoms, I would invariably experience a lot of frustration and anger. It was a double whammy. Feeling lousy sucked. Not being able to do what I wanted to do sucked. I was miserable about feeling miserable. Although my body needed rest, I couldn't.
Yet, as the years have rolled on and Practice has deepened, I can honestly say that things have shifted. This time around, I've rested for days. Although, admittedly, I relied on re-runs of Monk (a comedy-mystery series involving a detective with OCD named Adrian Monk, not an ordained monastic) to structure some of my time during the course the past week, I also spent a great deal of downtime just laying still and devoting my attention to breathing, being aware of the sensations of my body, and watching various thoughts come and go within the limitless space of awareness.
One day, I even created my own sickday"retreat schedule." It began with my usual one hour morning of sitting meditation, then continued with alternating equal periods of Monk and laying down Meditation for the rest of the day, taking breaks to eat and nap, etc. (I don't know, if any Zen master would have been pleased, but it worked just fine for me. )